Blowhards Houston’s weather forecasters begin the annual hurricane hysteria

June 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

June 1 is the official beginning of hurricane season, marked by the Red Cross tossing out the first doughnut. With this warning, our usual slack-jawed calmness is put on hold until the end of November, during which time we cower in our bomb shelters awaiting the slightest breeze to send us racing to Amarillo. Our fear is because our local weather forecasters panic every time there is a rain squall west of Africa. “And I’m not saying it will, but it could — could — come across these 12,000 miles and slam right into your front yard! Back to you, Dave.”

Houston’s Hysterical Hurricane Harbingers suffer from what doctors call Dan Rather American Idol Syndrome. Every Natty Bumppo in the vast wasteland knows the story of how Rather, a modest KHOU-TV reporter, was discovered by CBS suits while standing on the Galveston Seawall — Rather was standing on the Seawall, not the executives — in the midst of a storm telling viewers that he was standing on the Galveston Seawall in the midst of a storm. It leveled practically nothing, but Rather caught the eye of the storm, so to speak. He was summoned to New York where he made a fortune exposing George W. Bush’s military record, then promptly disappeared.

Ever since then, Houston TV reporters have tried to follow the same route to success. Thus we view them withstanding gale force winds while wading in hip-deep water, telling viewers not to stand in hip-deep water because you can’t see the bottom and you can fall into AGGGG! Bubble-bubble. We also have the standard air shots from the BigCamSlamTeamEye, which the rest of the world calls “a helicopter.” Also, count on an interview with a salty old shrimper captain (by TV law, all old shrimper captains must be salty) who says, “Ain’t no storm strong enuf to git me to leave.” And we shall see at least one Puffy-the-cat-comes-home-safely story.

If we have any lingering doubts about the certainty of waving at Coast Guard helicopters from our rooftops, (incidentally, do not board a rescue vessel named the Unsinkable III), then we are duly rattled by “the dean of hurricane prognosticators,” Bill Gray, an emeritus professor from Colorado State. Annually, Gray predicts a named storm every other week during the season.

For 2008 he predicts 15 storms coming at us from the Atlantic. For 2005, Gray predicted 13 named storms; there were 26. For 2006 he predicted 17; there were nine. The fact that he is never correct does not stop the press, and especially our TV weather watchers, from scaring the bejezzus out of us. Besides being wrong, Gray has also been known to fine-tune his predictions by, say, August when there have been no hurricanes, tropical storms or high tides.

To be an official hurricane, the storm must have winds of at least 73 miles per hour and cause rain and high tides. But what’s a tropical storm, and what’s the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane? Let me put this in simple terms. First, go outside and run your flag to the top of the flagpole. If the flag sags, unflappable, the weather is “calm,” which could be because the flag is in a tropical depression. If so, try to cheer it up a bit. Sing, “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” then salute it.

If the flag ripples a bit in the air, we meteorological mystics call that a “slight breeze.” If your flag stands straight out, that means there is a tropical storm. The next step up is a genuine hurricane, and they come in five levels, or categories. Category 1 is when the flag gets ripped to shreds. Category 2 is when the flag comes flying through your window. Category 3 is when it comes flying through the door, and the door is closed. Category 4 is getting to be industrial-strength wind. You are in this category when the flag sails through your house, and it is still attached to the flagpole. The last level is Category 5. That is when your house sails through Houston.

Wait. Professor Gray says there will be 10 named storms, plus three anonymous ones. Anyway, now we know how to spot the various storms. As to the difference in a typhoon and a hurricane, one is spelled t-y-p-h-o-o-n and the other is spelled h-u-r-r-i-c-a-n-e. That seems rather obvious. Ah, but what to do when there are telltale signs bad weather is coming, such as when the animals at the Houston Zoo are lining up two by two, or your insurance company announces it is canceling your flood policy?

We now come to Preparations for Hurricanes, aka Preparation H. First, make plans. Fill up your car’s gas tank and keep an extra supply of fuel in a 50-gallon drum. Put the drum somewhere that’s easy to reach when you evacuate. Perhaps next to your hot water heater. Buy lots of plywood. For some reason, before every storm people run out and buy plywood. What happened to last year’s plywood? Pack the necessities such as food, clothes and a case of Heinekens. Remember, you’ll need an opener. The Dutch have never heard of twist-offs. If you have pets, bring them along. You may get hungry.

After analyzing new data on global warming, Prof Gray now says there will be only seven named storms: Dopey, Grumpy….

You newcomers to Houston may have heard chilling tales of the big evacuation in front of hurricane Rita in 2005. Let me set the record straight. Those stories are an urban legend, as the entire moving process was exacted with the precision of the Aggie Band at halftime. More than 2.5 million evacuees left Houston for safety, and within two days most got as far as Katy. By week’s end, those bound for Austin were stopped by red lights at Bastrop and east Austin. Cars sat dead still by the thousands, allowing farmers in their John Deeres to safely cross the highways. Credit must go to Gov. Rick Perry, who had planned for any massive evacuation of the Texas Gulf Coast with precise instructions, “Somebody do something!” After Rita, Gov. Perry took decisive action so the next evacuation would go a bit smoother, if that’s possible. He created a blue-ribbon committee, which met weekly at Tony’s and recommended a bigger expense account. It also recommended that certain evacuees be given priority. They would be easy to spot as they would be wearing blue ribbons. A year or so before Rita I suggested that when the next storm approached (west of Africa), all freeways be made outbound. The DPS had replied that contraflow was impossible. What’s more, TxDOT had not one but two studies to rely on, and both determined that reversing the outbound lanes was not feasible. The agency even gave me five reasons why my idea wouldn’t work. These included: Cars coming up the Gulf Freeway from Galveston would cause massive traffic jams in Houston. Some people need to head into the storm — those on official business, emergency workers, island residents (huh? aren’t they the ones fleeing?) and, of course, the hated press. They omitted looters. Also, TxDOT workers wouldn’t be available to change signs, barricades, etc. to convert the freeways to contraflow because — get this — the workers would be needed to clear up debris after the storm. Finally, TxDOT warned, “Do not flee the wrath of Thor!”

Guess what? After Rita, TxDOT came up with a plan to make all outbound freeways contraflow. Gee, someone should have thought of that. But now I have an even better suggestion: Let’s just change the hurricane season to one week in January. If we can move most of our national holidays to Mondays, Hurricane Week should be easy. Let’s turn the plan over to FEMA.

Modern Day Bride

Courtney Keith, Houston’s newest Billboard Bride

And the winner is …

The Bridal Extravaganza Show’s Billboard Bride contest attracted hundreds of wonderful applicants for the opportunity to be featured on billboards, posters and other promotional materials for this season’s Bridal Extravaganza Show. Judges spent weeks examining photos and reading interviews as they narrowed down the field.

Judges met the 10 finalists during a preliminary photo shoot at Ventura’s Bridal. Attitude, look, walk and personality all counted, because the winner would be someone who looks great, represents BES well and revels in her accomplishment.

When Courtney Keith walked in the room, the contest was all but over; she had everything judges were looking for. There was something special about her; everything from her warm personality to her modern look set her apart from the rest. But she sealed the deal reacting to judges’ requests to let her hair down. “She laughed, unclipped her hair and smiled the whole time,” recalls Laurette Veres, owner of BES. “She didn’t balk at the idea; she just ran with it. We also knew she’d be great on TV if that opportunity comes along.”

Keith received the big news that she was the winner as she was driving around town with her mother. They both screamed and laughed like kids on Christmas morning. A couple of weeks later, Keith and her mother, Eilleene Keith, arrived at Ventura’s Bridal to pick out wedding gowns. With help from BES staff, they found several that complimented her stunning looks, charm and kind-hearted spirit — dresses that seem to be made for her.

During the course of the photo shoot Keith never complained or stopped smiling. She was a little jittery until her mother whispered, “She looks like Cinderella.” She did indeed. The long detailed wedding dress hugged her curves and showcased her hourglass figure.

As hundreds of pictures were taken of her, she told how her fiancé proposed. “God bless him,” she said. “He struggled for awhile trying to decide on the most perfect, romantic, unexpected way to propose.” To ensure it was unexpected, he waited until she was in the bathtub on a random Friday night to run out for a bottle of champagne. To ensure that it was perfect and romantic, he proposed when she was in the most comfortable, safe environment — when he returned she was snuggled on her sofa in her pajamas, hair in a ponytail, wearing no makeup. He dropped to one knee and asked her to marry him. “It was my dream proposal from my dream man,” she says.

After eight grueling hours, four different wedding dresses and two hair and makeup changes, Keith flashed her bright smile one last time and the photo shoot was over.

Dealing with tragedy
The excitement of winning the Billboard Bride competition and performing in the photo shoot helps mask recent tragedy. Courtney’s fiancé, Colin Matheny, lost his mother and two of her friends in a terrible automobile accident. “[Courtney] and her fiancé have endured so much the last couple of months; I really feel this is just what they needed before Courtney walks down the aisle,” Eilleene says.

Tragedy can impact relationships in different ways. For this couple, it brought them closer and made them stronger. Though it has been hard, they don’t focus on the negative. They know Colin’s mother is with them in spirit and will be with them on their wedding day.

Strong and caring
Keith is the perfect person to represent the Bridal Extravaganza Show because her reasons for wanting to be the Billboard Bride revolve around others. She wants to share her happiness, have future brides feel her joy and make her fiancé proud. “I am a strong woman,” she says. “I hope other women can relate to me because I am personable, proud and confident. This is an experience of a lifetime, one that I will never forget,” she says. She is sharing it with everyone she can reach, even if only through her mile-high smile on Houston billboards.

Bayou City Farmers Market

June 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Edit

Every day the world is becoming more industrialized and commercial. But that hasn’t stopped some Houstonians from enjoying a taste of the old ways on Saturday mornings.

Urban Harvest’s Bayou City Farmers Market, located in the back parking lot at 300 Richmond, is nearing its fourth year of providing Houstonians locally grown produce, meats and other items. Since its inception the number of growers has increased from about eight to more than 40, says Jacquie Miller, the market manager. “People would look around and go, ‘That’s it?'” Miller says of the early days. “But we’ve grown quite a bit in a short time. And it keeps money in the local community.”

On any given Saturday 30 producers come from farms up to 150 miles away. The distance may seem a bit far to be considered local, but Miller says they already have trouble finding enough growers to accommodate the increasing demand for markets. “People are always saying we need a market in The Woodlands, or somewhere else,” Miller says. “The problem has been the supply of farmers more than the demand for more markets.”

Market goods include produce, chicken, micro-greens, cage-free eggs, coffee, breads and desserts — all with an emphasis on freshness. “I don’t want to be selling something next week that I picked yesterday,” says Van Weldon, a farmer in San Jacinto County. “You want to make sure the customer gets the freshest product.” Weldon says if he has greens left over at the end of the day he may look to sell the remainder at a nearby restaurant. His farm caters mainly to high-end eateries in Dallas and Houston; other growers sell to produce companies or grocery stores. But, Miller says, the market can shed light on the farming business and bring more customer traffic.

The market also includes a Gardeners’ Corner, where harvests of any size are sold. “It’s a co-op area for small producers and backyard farmers,” Miller says. “Maybe someone’s got a lemon tree in their yard. They’ll be here just for that in the winter.”

Part of the market’s draw is the relationship between the buyer and producer. The displays are run by the people cultivating the goods. If a customer has a question or comment, the farmer is right there and readily available. “I get to see firsthand and get gratification from selling a quality product,” Weldon says. “And if you have problems with your product you hear that too.”

Such as price increases. Weldon charged $5 for his baby lettuce mix last year, but bumped it to $6 in reaction to the rising cost of diesel fuel. And he’s not alone. “We spend $500 a week on gasoline,” says Henry Bryan, a chicken grower in Hempstead. “I’m not raising chicken to make money. I’m raising chicken to be around my family.”

Bryan got into the poultry business after selling a multinational conglomerate he ran for 20 years. He recently sold the final half of the company’s stock, marking the end of an 18-month exit strategy. “I traveled 250 days out of the year and had five children I never saw growing up. As a father that starts to wear on you,” Bryan says. “So I needed a readjustment of my priorities.”

Bryan Farm initially sold 20 “broilers” to Chef Chris Shepherd of Houston restaurant Catalan. Within three weeks orders totaled 300 birds a week. The chickens are raised as “pastured poultry,” a concept Bryan adapted after reading a book on the subject. The birds are moved to a different spot every day, with the grass grown via non-chemical fertilizer. “There’s nobody around to teach these things anymore, frankly,” Bryan says. “Everything is geared towards ‘grow it big, grow it fast and package it so it looks like it’s of the highest quality.’ But it’s not.”

But just as with Weldon and others, the quality does come at a price. Bryan says the average chicken costs $1.20 to raise to maturity; his cost is $8. “Some things are more expensive [than at a grocery store] and others aren’t,” says Jemma Irish, a market shopper. “But you’re not necessarily comparing apples to apples. The organic eggs at the grocery store are a lighter yellow. You can tell you’re getting a lesser product.”

Irish says she avoids the grocery store as much as possible when shopping for herself, three children and a husband. She’s arranged a four-person shopping rotation with some friends, and says as a result her family never gets sick. “It’s definitely harder but it’s worth it,” Irish says. “It’s something I do just like brushing my teeth. I don’t want to put chemicals and pesticides inside my family’s bodies.”

While shopping, producers can also swap stories, goods and tips with fellow attendees. “One of my favorite things about Saturday mornings is that people just hang out. It’s a very diverse crowd,” Miller says. “You can talk to vendors or see friends you haven’t seen in a long time. We don’t have town squares anymore, so this [fills that void] and is a different way to shop. It’s just a better way to do it.”

The Bayou City Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. Urban Harvest previously offered a Wednesday afternoon market, but it was cancelled earlier this year after failing to garner enough traffic. But the failure of the mid-week market does not close the door on further expansion, Miller says. The hope is to have markets spring up all over the city. “That’s the world we’re trying to get to,” she says. “We used to have markets all around Houston. This is one part of having a local food system again. That will come on its own and it doesn’t need us.”

Bayou City Farmers Market
Open Saturdays 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
3000 Richmond Ave.
Houston, TX 77002

Steele the One

June 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Edit

Her original plan was to attend medical school, but on a whim, Dayna Steele auditioned for a disc jockey position at Texas A&M U

Dayna Steele built a huge fan base and rubbed elbows with the most prominent musicians in the 1980s and 90s. For nearly two decades, she rocked Houston’s airwaves with tunes from the likes of AC/DC to ZZ Top. She earned national recognition as Billboard magazine’s Local Radio Personality of the Year in 1996 and as one of Talkers Magazine’s 100 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts in 1998. Fans of her midday gig at KLOL-FM, known as “Steeleworkers,” traveled around the world with her as she broadcasted from the front lines in Bosnia to the grand opening of the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas.

Home sweet home
In 1998 she left the rock world to enjoy a family life with her husband and three children. “Just like in the movies and TV shows, when your first child is born, everything changes,” Steele says. “Although I still get to attend fabulous parties, book tours and make TV appearances, I just can’t wait to get home.”

Staying at home didn’t mean sitting around. She immediately started an online store, then a new form of business. “I thought about it for two years before I created it,” Steele says. “There were only two places you could buy space items, Florida and Houston, and that just didn’t seem right.” The Space Store became one of the world’s largest retailers of specialty, space-themed merchandise. The experience was very enjoyable. “I was making money in my sleep. Who wouldn’t like it?” she says.

After selling the company to a NASA contractor in 2000, Steele embarked on another venture, Smart Girls Rock, a Web site encouraging girls to develop skills and seek careers in math, science, technology and business. “Everybody wants to be the next American Idol,” she says. “Why not the next scientist?”

Standing on top
After some procrastination, she wrote and published, “Rock to the Top: What I Learned about Success from the World’s Greatest Rock Stars.” She focuses on branding and networking along with attributes like confidence, organization and appreciation. Sprinkling in stories and advice from the world’s best rock musicians, her book is a blend of behind-the-scenes anecdotes and crafty business skills. Her quirky mannerisms and storytelling convey her life’s passions, which she says is important in making any venture a success. “[Passion] is hands down the most important part of succeeding. You must love what you do and be willing to jump out of bed each and every day to do it. Passion makes you work harder and will get you over the bumps in the road,” Steele says. “Go after what you want, not the money; if you follow your passion, then money will follow later.”

However, Steele does not call “Rock to the Top” a tell-all. “Certain stories, the ones that I actually remember, will stay safely locked in my brain for a long time to come,” she says. “I have good friends from those years. I now have young children, so some must remain solely mine to make me smile … or cringe.”

R-O-C-K in the USA
Steele’s business pursuits always include her philanthropic work. After she left KLOL, she remained involved with their Rock ‘n’ Roll Auction, and she takes the time to visit cancer patients. Her latest venture, Operation National Anthem, has garnered national accolades. This series of videos played prior to “The Star Spangled Banner” encourages event attendees to “turn off their cell phones, stand up, stop talking and pay attention to our national anthem,” Steele says. “It all started with a civilian friend working in Iraq, who sent me a story about a Jamaican contractor who had been favorably impressed with our anthem. This contractor went on to say how shocked he was to hear people talking when the anthem was sung at an event he attended in the United States.” The videos feature U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq.

For her patriotism, Steele was featured as one of “35 People Who Inspire Us” in May’s issue of Reader’s Digest. “To be included on this list with Harrison Ford, Maria Shriver and so many other amazing people is humbling and overwhelming,” Steele says. “I think most people in this country are proud Americans. We just sometimes forget to show our respect during ‘The Star Spangled Banner.'”

Although she enjoys life off the air, Steele still acknowledges music as her passion. Her radio retirement may be as permanent as the Rolling Stones’. “There’s just something about music that’s touched me deep in my soul,” she says.

Goodnight Neighbor

June 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Edit

Houston says goodbye to news icon Ron Stone

He brought us the news with a unique blend of professionalism and humor, concluding each broadcast with a friendly, “Good night, neighbors.” Last month Houston mourned the passing of one of our favorite neighbors, Ron Stone, whose comforting presence was a fixture on Houston television for more than 30 years.

“He was the best of the best, and Houston will never see his equal,” says Bill Balleza, the current co-anchor at the KPRC news desk, who worked with Stone for much of his career.

Stone was born in Hanna, Okla., in1936. After graduating from East Central State Teachers College in Ada, Okla., he began his broadcasting career at small Oklahoma radio and television stations. He moved to Houston in 1961, when he was hired by Dan Rather to work for KHOU-TV. Stone took over as lead anchor when Rather left to begin his network news career at CBS. Stone also was briefly lured away by a network opportunity. In 1967 he moved to New York to work as a writer for NBC, but he returned to Houston after 10 months.

Stone remained at KHOU until 1972, when he moved to KPRC-TV. There he and weatherman Doug Johnson made The Scene at Five a Houston institution for the next 20 years. The friendly banter between Stone and Franklin was not staged; the two men had a deep, lifelong friendship. Stone’s quick wit often caught Johnson off guard, making it difficult for the weatherman to keep his composure during the newscast.

Stone formed close relationships with his colleagues. “He served as friend and mentor to all of us who had the honor to work with him over the many years,” Balleza says. Although viewers might remember Stone as the man reading the news from behind a desk, Balleza remembers him as a reporter who liked to be on the scene while the news was happening in order to bring a personal touch to the story.

“Ron was a tireless worker and masterful storyteller,” Balleza says. “Ron was happiest when he was out in the field, both at home and abroad, telling the stories of interesting people and events. He was there when the Berlin Wall fell and when Houston veterans returned to Normandy to commemorate the anniversary of the Longest Day. But he was also there when a little girl was too sick to attend the Jerry Lewis telethon and needed to be interviewed at her bedside.”

The Muscular Dystrophy Association was a charity that Stone cared about deeply. For years he served as master of ceremonies for the local segments of the MDA’s annual Labor Day telethon, and he often visited young patients in hospitals. He formed close ties with some patients and delivered eulogies at several of their funerals.

Stone lent his efforts to other charities as well. “He would start the day with speaking engagements, come to the studio, and frequently attend other community events between the six and 10 evening newscasts,” Balleza recalls. “He couldn’t say ‘no’ to anyone who asked for his time and talents.”

Another contribution Stone made to the community was to establish the Ron Stone Foundation, which provides funds for the upkeep of Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site and donates materials to help schools teach Texas history. Although he grew up north of the Red River, Stone had a fascination with Texas history. He has written three books on the subject, and as host of KPRC’s The Eyes of Texas, he took viewers to some of the state’s most fascinating places.

Stone stepped down from the KPRC news desk in 1992, but he did not disappear from public life. Along with his wife, Pat, and sons, Billy and Ron Jr., he founded Stonefilms of Texas, a production company that makes documentary, marketing and training films. The company’s list of clients includes hospitals, major oil companies, government agencies, law firms, universities and charitable organizations. Stig Daniels, who has been an editor at Stonefilms since 1995, says about half the company’s work is done for nonprofit groups like the Boy Scouts and the YMCA.

Stone approached his work at Stonefilms with the same enthusiasm he had shown during his journalism career. “He was involved on a daily basis, until he got ill [last September],” Daniels says, adding that Stone narrated all of Stonefilms’ projects and wrote much of the material. Daniels notes that Stone’s skills as a writer were widely known and respected by his colleagues in the news media. “He was also a pretty damn good narrator.”

Daniels says he was impressed by Stone’s work ethic and he learned quite a bit by observing the veteran broadcaster. “I guess the biggest thing would be caring about projects and putting a lot of hard work and effort into everything he did to make it the best it could be,” says Daniels.

One reason Stone enjoyed his work at Stonefilms was that he could oversee a project from start to finish. “He enjoyed crafting words and then seeing images and music married to them,” Daniels says. “It was just a pleasure and a joy to sit with him in what would sometimes be a challenging environment of working on a project four or five days in a row and still having a good time doing it. He made the hard work fun.”

Just as he did at KPRC, Stone took time from his busy schedule at Stonefilms to speak to just about any group who asked. “Even when had set up his own company, he would still do a ton of speeches,” Daniels says, adding that Stone would seldom accept an honorarium for a speaking engagement. “He didn’t make a lot of money at it, but he could have if he’d wanted to.”

Shortly after Stone’s death, Stonefilms received notice that one of the last projects Ron and Billy Stone had worked on together, “The Memorial Park Conservancy,” had won three Telly awards. “It was nice closure that one of the last things he worked on, other people saw the merits and gave an award for it,” Daniels says.

Stone, who had previously survived kidney cancer, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in September. When it was discovered that the cancer had spread to his brain, Stone spent his last days with his family. He died May 13.

Balleza remembers his friend as “a man who cared deeply for his craft and for the city he loved.”

That love was mutual. In the days following Stone’s death, the phones at Stonefilms were flooded with calls expressing sympathy. Some were from clients and co-workers, but many were from people who didn’t know Stone personally. “They were just expressing the loss to the community at large,” Daniels says. And so we say good night, one last time, to a good neighbor.

Hooray for Houston

June 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Edit

Area actors leaving their mark in Hollywood

Houston has produced more than its share of famous actors. Farrah Fawcett, Lisa Hartman, Jaclyn Smith, Patrick Swayze and brothers Dennis and Randy Quaid all achieved national acclaim. There are also hundreds of talented actors who began their careers in Houston and are not yet household names. However, after launching their careers in Houston, they enjoy success as actors.

1. BRANDON SMITH is a successful actor who has always lived in Houston. He was only nine years old when he was discovered at the Alley Theatre and offered a role in an Agatha Christie play. During his 10-year Alley contract, he portrayed all the child roles until he grew too tall. Since his Alley tenure ended, Smith has had major roles in many feature films and on television. He is seen in the Academy Award-winning No Country for Old Men and episodes of Prison Break.

2. A perfect example of talent with supportive parents is CARSON BROWN. Her parents realized Carson was committed to becoming an actress when she was eight years old. Her first audition was at age 12 where she earned the role of Kim Basinger’s daughter in the film Easy Money. The family moved to Los Angeles to give Carson more opportunities for success. Carson appeared in two films, three television shows and a national commercial. Now back in Houston, she is a teen reporter on KTBU’s Wild About Houston.

3. MATTHEW BOMER, starring in Traveler, trained at the Alley Theatre. After college, he moved to New York and worked on stage until landing a part on All My Children. In 2001, he joined the cast of Guiding Light and earned a role in television’s Tru Calling. He was director Brett Ratner’s choice to play the lead in Superman Returns (2006). However, Bomer lost the Superman part when Ratner left the production. He can be seen on Amy Coyne and North Shore, and in Flightplan with Jodie Foster. He also had a lead part in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.

4. Since filming her first commercial at age five, ASHLEY JONES has had an extensive career in film, television and theater. She portrays Bridget Forrester on The Bold and the Beautiful. When her father found work in Houston, she became part of the Actor’s Theatre and performed in critically acclaimed productions. At age 12, she earned rave reviews for her performance in The Chalk Garden. At age 15, Jones portrayed Ingrid in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. She also has other television credits including The Young and the Restless, Crossing Jordan, The District, Without a Trace, 7th Heaven and CSI: New York. Her film credits include Old School and Extreme Dating. Jones has earned two Daytime Emmy nominations and Australia’s Boomerang Award for Best Younger Actress.

5. DAVID BORN is a professional stage, film and television actor with hundreds of credits to his name. He worked as a full-time actor in Houston and Louisiana for 20 years before he and his wife moved to Los Angeles. The Houston native earned his drama degree from the University of Houston. There, he studied with the late Cecil Pickett, Sidney Berger and Thomas J. Lyttle. He also studied at the Actor’s Theatre and was a prominent fixture at many of Houston’s major companies. Born stars in the feature film God Thinks You’re a Loser and has a supporting role in the independent hit Little Chenier, which won the Best Picture award at the Phoenix Film Festival. He has a co-starring role on the TV series Prison Break and recently filmed Bamboo Shark, starring Mickey Rooney. Born earned accolades for his impression of Robin Williams. He reached the semifinals on The Next Best Thing, a television show seeking America’s best celebrity impersonator.

6. The successful and recognizable LORETTA DEVINE graduated from the University of Houston with speech and drama degrees. Her big break came in the Broadway production of Dreamgirls, which premiered in 1981 and ran for more than 1,500 performances. In 1995, she earned a high-profile role as Gloria Peaches in Waiting to Exhale, starring Whitney Houston, Gregory Hines and Angela Bassett. She earned an NAACP Image Award for best supporting actress. She is best known for her role of Marla Hendricks on the drama Boston Public, for which she won three Image Awards. She has a recurring part as Adele Webber on the hit medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. She appeared in the 2005 Academy Award Best Picture, Crash. She plays Rochelle’s mother, Maxine, on the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris and co-stars in the new hit series Eli Stone.

7. Born in Houston in 1990, soap opera actress LEVEN ALICE RAMBIN performed at St. Francis Episcopal Day School. She studied acting at the Houston School of Film and Theatre and finished her youth modeling courses through Mayo-Hill Houston. Rambin plays the autistic Lily Montgomery on All My Children. In March of 2007, she played dual parts on the serial, portraying Lily and her half-sister Ava Benton. She was nominated as Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series at the 34th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards for the two roles.

8. TONY OLLER is a 16-year-old singer, actor and musician called Disney’s New Heartthrob. Oller is shooting season two of Disney’s As the Bell Rings.

9. BLUE DECKERT, has worked consistently for many years and co-stars as Coach Mac McGill on Friday Night Lights. His character has been in every episode of the series about Texas high school football.

10. Born in Houston in 1980, ERIC LADIN graduated from Kinkaid School in 1997 and from USC in 2001 with a theater degree. He has more than 20 film and television roles to his credit, including a major role in HBO’s miniseries Generation Kill, filmed in Africa.